The eyes are strong and dry, the throat feels thickened and the pulse is racing. The shins are swollen and the finger joints hurt. The doctor will probably diagnose "Graves' Disease." This disease may also be associated with more discrete symptoms. The disease has many names that are based on the first authors - for example, based on the Merseburg based physician Graves, the Irish internist Graves or the Italian surgeon Flajani. Common in the Anglo-Saxon area are "Graves 'disease" and in other Europe "Graves' disease".
What is Graves' disease?
Graves' disease is one of the autoimmune diseases in which the defense system produces substances that are not only directed against foreign invaders, but also against the body's own substances.
A malfunction that can have fatal consequences: The affected structures can be altered or destroyed by these "autoantibodies", so that they can no longer properly perceive their function.
Misguided immune defense
In Graves' Disease, these misguided defenses primarily target certain surface cells on the thyroid gland. The hormones from the brain usually dock to them to tell the thyroid gland to release more hormones.
The "wrong" antibodies have the same effect and cause the thyroid gland to produce hormones that are completely decoupled from actual needs. This leads to the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. The disease is therefore also referred to as immunohyperthyroidism.
The autoantibodies can also target other body tissues causing local reactions with swelling. Most affected are muscles, connective and fatty tissue of the eyes and shins.
Causes of Graves' disease
The causes in detail are still not clear; However, it is assumed that several triggers interact. It is thought that besides genetic factors and disorders in the immune system the following aspects play an important role:
- Infections with viruses or bacteria
- Environmental influences such as iodine pollution or smoking
- psychological factors such as stress and hormonal changes (for example, during puberty, pregnancy or menopause)
Graves' disease is more common with other autoimmune diseases, for example type 1 diabetes mellitus, chronic polyarthritis, or some form of gastritis (type A gastritis).
Women get 8 to 10 times more likely than men. It is estimated that in western industrialized countries about 1 to 6 percent of the population are affected. The disease is usually between the 30th and 50th Age of outbreak, but even children can fall ill. In some families, the disease occurs frequently, which speaks for a hereditary component.